From June 18th to 20th the CapaCities project organized the third local Peer Review on Disaster Risk Management in the city of Kutaisi, Georgia. The purpose of these local Peer Reviews on DRM is to support the “municipality under review” to improve its DRM policies by giving a fresh, external view on their current situation, signaling areas for improvement and providing recommendations as well as good practices from other countries and established EU standards. The peer reviews also help to sensitize and engage DRM stakeholders and commit them to a shared understanding of the situation and the way forwards.
Peer Review programme
In Ararat the peer team consisted of three members of the CapaCities Core Team, two peers from Ararat (Armenia) and two peers from Ungheni (Moldova). The first day started with a welcome by the deputy mayor of Kutaisi, ms. Nino Tvaltvadze, and a general introduction of the peer review (purpose, programme and the peer review framework) for the whole group of participating stakeholders. The first session covered the topic of risk governance, followed by an afternoon session on early warning, preparedness and recovery. During the second day, sessions were held on disaster risk assessment and spatial planning. The third day a school was visited to learn more about risk education in Georgia. After due consideration, the peer team presented its first conclusions and recommendations to the local stakeholders.
The peer review mission to Kutaisi also included the Steering Committee of the CapaCities project. The Steering Committee concluded that the project is completely on track, with all deliverables finished in time and the financial realization within the budget. The members of the Steering Committee participated in several of the peer review sessions and discussed with local and national stakeholders about political leadership for DRM.
The peers concluded that in Kutaisi, and in Georgia in general, the focus seems to be more on post-disaster (recovery) than on prevention. Georgia has a clear governance with legally defined roles of stakeholders, but the practical understanding of this by each of the stakeholders still requires attention. The local stakeholder cooperation has great potential. National government could give additional attention to the local implementation of DRM legislation, by providing concrete guidance and organizing more dialogue between national and local governments.
The peers presented several concrete recommendations for Kutaisi. The peers recommended to appoint a permanent DRM coordinator in city hall. The DRM strategy that is being developed within the CapaCities framework should be aligned with Georgia’s legal requirements. Good use could be made of the guidance and examples from the national Emergency Management Agency. The improve cooperation between local and national level a Memorandum of Understanding could be developed, with concrete joint actions. Kutaisi should give priority to the development of a risk profile of the city, using the national methodology for Disaster Risk Assessment. For the development of risk mapping a joint project between national and local level could be designed.
It is deemed important for Kutaisi to try to get “ahead of the game”. Afterall, to prevent is better than to recover. To this end, the development of a general spatial plan of Kutaisi has to be top priority. The peers regard the risk education in schools as a good practice. City hall could build on the approach and information from the school curriculum also for risk communication to adults. The information for adults about risks and how to behave to prevent and prepare should be aligned with the information for children. More frequent emergency exercises in kindergartens and schools could be organized, in close cooperation with the Emergency Management Agency.
To improve preparedness, the peers recommended to try to organize early warning alerts more directly to the population, without too many agencies in between the hazard detection and the issuing of alerts. Also, additional ways to communicate to the population could be used, because crisis communication is the first line of defence. Kutaisi city hall should ensure the internal crisis organization is 24/7 available, has clearly assigned responsibilities and is trained.
After discussion it was concluded that Kutaisi and its stakeholders are content to have received the peers’ recommendations. There is a strong desire to use these recommendations to take steps to improve the DRM situation. The final peer review report is eagerly anticipated and will be used to engage in a dialogue with the city’s advisory board and city council.